In The Kitchee At Parties, All Aboard The Trans-Global Transfer Express
Arsenal’s tour of the Far East ended with a 2 – 2 draw against Kitchee in Hong Kong yesterday. Results and performances were a mixed bag, a win, draw and defeat are hardly inspiring fear in the rest of the Premier League but that was not the point. The manager has clear indications as to the progress of the fringe players.
In that sense he has seen the potential and knows that they are coming along but not yet ready to usurp any of the current first team incumbents. Afobe, Aneke, Yennaris and Eisfeld are proof that the Academy is preparing players well for future seasons. Afobe is this morning linked with a loan spell at Bolton. I know some will prefer a Premier League club but the expectation is that Bolton will be in the upper echelons of The Championship and the urgency of play in that division is maybe a steeper learning curve than the top flight might ordinarily offer.
Work needs to be done. Integrating new signings in the next fortnight is no small endeavour and having just one friendly is not an entirely satisfactory state of affairs but that is how events have played out. The manager is not happy with this, admitting that Giroud and Podolski may be ‘eased’ into the team in competitive matches; the suspicion is that this will depend on the situation with Robin van Persie. The Dutchman’s advisors were reported to have told United that a Rooney-sized salary will match his ambitions. Rather simplistically, that presumes Arsenal will give away the family silver once more. The cards are dealt and we see how the hand plays out.
Speaking before the team headed home, Arsène observed that there would be a match behind closed doors, albeit the first team vs reserves,
I decided to have one game behind closed doors to try and get a good opponent but at the moment it will be behind closed doors against ourselves. I have organised a training camp in Germany ahead of the Cologne game. It is a little bit unusual for us.
There is benefit in such a fixture although painful memories will recur for one or two of the squad who have fallen foul of the injury curse in previous summers. Even so, it is not ideal and that inference can be drawn from the sign-off phrase from the manager.
Aside from that, the defending in these three matches has been somewhere between woeful and abject. This is tempered by several caveats, not least of which is that the first choice backline has not been used. However it is the positional play which has caused most problems and the disorganisation on the pitch, baffling. Each of the goals conceded has been of Arsenal’s own making, none possessing the ‘Wow’ factor indicating it was an unstoppable passage of play. Malaysia took advantage of the lack of covering from midfield, advancing into shooting range. City took advantage of spaces afforded whilst Kitchee just took advantage.
It is disappointing to look back and see those goals go in; individual mistakes happen and the lack of urgency due to the nature of the matches contributes but some of the mistakes were so basic that even conceding them in training would bring derision. None of that will be lost on the manager and coaching staff, as post-match comments have indicated.
Commercially the feedback seems positive. A major objective of the tour has been achieved as the club seeks to exploit a lucrative market. Presumably this leg of the tour will be paired with Africa next summer, hoping to fulfil that excursion following this summer’s aborted playing visit to Nigeria.
This is reportedly a big week for Arsenal. Malaga’s financial deadlines expire today and contradictory reports emerge on an hourly basis from Spain. Big-wigs flew in with furrowed brows, players were excitedly left at home from tours even though there was apparently no plan to take them in the first place and those who should not be travelling have been smuggled into hold luggage. In other words, the usual rumour and subtefuge. As expectations rise, the likelihood of it all falling flat cannot be shaken. Just when you want something to happen, nothing does. Experience teaches us this but it doesn’t stop the hopes spiralling.
It seems that players deemed to be ‘deadwood’ are going to be departing this week. Wenger took the unusual step of naming Squillaci, Bendtner and Park as heading towards the exit door with a pace rarely witnessed on the pitch. With Park, anything on the pitch was rarely witnessed. Arshavin is the curio; no-one seems to be keen to commit to anything, other than his agent who is adamant that a big wage packet is going to seal any deal. It isn’t that simple but such honesty is refreshing in a game where loyalty is a card often overplayed.
His client’s time at The Emirates may not be over; the suspicion must be that this will depend on where Arsène sees his main role from the bench. Centrally, the Russian might be convinced to stay provided that he can convince the manager he will offer consistency. The likelihood is that remaining at Arsenal will see no change to the bit-part role which led Arshavin to a loan in St Petersburg and as such this staying seems a remote outcome.